Prosecutorial discretion is immense. And it starts with the decision on whether someone should be prosecuted in the first place. Now submitted, for your approval, the stupidest prosecution yet, at least in terms of “your tax dollars at work”.
From the charging instrument filed last week (cause number 08-po-00237-MHW-1 for federal criminal defense lawyers with access to Pacer):
…the defendant… did willfully destroy, damage and remove Government property without authorization, namely by consuming soft drink beverage (sic) belonging to the Department of Veterans Affairs…
So the defendant had driven her dad to the VA to get medical care, took her refillable thermos into the lunch room and filled it up. She had been charged $1, $1.50 in the past but this time the clerk told her it was going to be $3.80.
After being told eventually by the manager that she was going to have pay the increased cost she unwisely poured the soft drink on the counter – presumably as a protest. By the way I’m not defending her actions; they are puerile at best. But criminal? As in don’t-make-a-federal-case-out-of-it criminal?
According to this federal prosecutor, yes! He charged her under 38 Code of Federal Regulations 1.218 Security and Law Enforcement at VA facilities. The quoted part above is from section (a)(3) and he threw in an (a)(5) charge of disturbance alleging that her conduct otherwise impeded or disrupted the performance of official duties by Government employees.
A buddy of mine asked me last week whether I thought the Feds could find something to prosecute me for if they set their mind to it. Well, not if I don’t leave the house…